My Thoughts on Spring Training and Burger Design

By David G. Firestone

I’ve got a couple things to discuss today. First, I want to discuss the arrival of spring. We all have identifiers for the beginning of Spring. When you live in an area of the country where winter brings lots of snow and cold weather, you look for anything that means that spring is coming. Some people look for flowers, or the traditional robin. Some look for warmer weather to start, no matter how briefly it lasts. My two identifiers are the racing season beginning, which it already has, and the other one, which started this week, SPRING TRAINING BASEBALL!

Spring training baseball is the greatest baseball on earth, because it’s the most laid back baseball played at the professional level. Watching spring training is so much fun! It’s baseball with the pressure off. No playoffs, no divisional championships, records don’t mean anything, it’s great! The teams are laid back, and the fans are laid back as well. It’s just fun to watch.

Spring training baseball is like getting the neighborhood kids together and playing a game in the street. That is when baseball is fun. Neighborhood baseball is just a fun afternoon. Once the regular season starts, it stops being as fun to watch, because the pressure comes on. Suddenly, those 162 games become important, records become important, the playoffs are a factor, divisional championships become a thing, and the relaxed, low-pressure atmosphere goes away right quick.

The other thing I wanted to discuss is something that has been on my mind for a while. I’d like someone to explain to me the process of coming up with a new fast food sandwich. Let me explain the backstory here. The other day, I went to lunch with a long-time friend of the family, and we went to Chili’s. While there, I saw a burger called the “Southern Smokehouse Burger” which is described as:

“Topped with 4 slices of applewood smoked bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, house-made garlic dill pickles, spiced panko onion rings, fresh leaf lettuce, tomato & Chili’s Signature sauce. Served with a side of Chili’s classic BBQ sauce. “

I get that Chili’s isn’t “fast food” but, the point is that they rotate different kinds of burgers in and out of the menu. Red Robin does the same thing. What I would love to know is what goes into the creative process for making one of these new burgers. It’s obvious that some burgers are created with typical ingredients. Obviously a restaurant that makes onion rings could put them on a burger.

Other burgers add more unusual ingredients. Take the “Philly Cheesesteak Thickburger” from Carl’s Jr. for example. You would expect that something with that name would have traditional Cheesesteak ingredients, but no, this is literally a “charbroiled 1/3-pound, 100 percent Angus beef patty, topped with thin-sliced steak, sautéed peppers and onions and Swiss and American cheeses on a seeded bun. “ A burger with sliced steak on it? Do cheese steaks need more beef? Wouldn’t the cheese, pepper, and onion combo work by themselves? I think it would.

I would love to sit in on the whole process, from start to finish. I really would. Every sandwich that a restaurant releases has to go through many people, and market research. I’ve done the occasional survey, and I always wonder what wen into the design process for everything I take. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times, it seems so odd, and so weird that I wonder why it even exists. It’s an interesting thing, at least to me.

Oh by the way, the Southern Smokehouse Burger at Chili’s is really good.